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Cycle Speedway on Tyneside

The following pictures and text were supplied by my mate "Jack Of Diamonds" Jacko aka Keith Dyer, is a keen speedway supporter.  He was also a Cycle Speedway rider and helped establish the pedal powered version of speedway in Newcastle.  This whole page is devoted to Jacko's memories of how it was in 1963.

 

   

Above: Newcastle's K Dyer, J McBeth, T Kirkup and B Hiscock show how it was done.


Cycle speedway was born out of the end of WW2. The population was ready for entertainment and flocked to the cinema, music halls and sporting events. Speedway was on a high in the late forties with massive crowds, especially in London.

Young supporters wanted to emulate their Speedway heroes, and in London had the opportunity to do so as bomb sites were numerous. Soon makeshift tracks were built, teams were formed, and cycle speedway arrived. It was very different to what we have now, bikes were normal road bikes and rules were non-existent. However through time various leagues were formed, rules were built up and meetings were properly organized. It was not just London, but most towns and cities that had a speedway found youngsters pedaling around.  

Big changes came in the sixties. Forward thinking organizers saw the possibility of racing against teams in other areas. A national organization was formed, and riders were licensed. Major leagues were found in Manchester, Edinburgh, London and

the south east. Test matches were held between England and Scotland, and regional leagues were formed. National championships were a highlight. Throughout the 70s better tracks were built often with local council help. Facilities included a

safety barrier, rising starting gate, programmes, pa systems and refreshments. Riders were more likely to keep riding, many riding in their forties and fifties. Things were looking good for the sport, but the advent of BMX racing and mountain biking meant a rethink. 

Below: Newcastle's Eastfield track Eastfield Avenue just off Stotts Road at the bottom of the Fossway

There are less tracks now, but there you will find an emphasis on youth. Equipment can be provided, and riders are graded by age, girls are welcome. Tracks are normally between 80 and 100 meters per lap, race times are about 50 seconds. Bikes are like speedway, no brakes or gears. Cycle speedway is still alive and kicking. Newcastle has never been a hotbed of the sport, which is surprising considering other cities have had major success. 

I was there at the beginning around 1963. We thought we were great with cow-horn bars and bog standard bikes. We raced for our own amusement on a piece of waste land behind Moorland Crescent in Walkergate. Houses are there now. Somehow we got a bit organized, and with the help of Jackie Hiscock, dad of current trackman Bruce we in I think 1965 went to Edinburgh. Nobody had cars in those days, so off we went in a Moordales coach. We were stuffed. Nobody used cow-horns, Canadian bends are the thing, we didn't know you had to use special cogs and there was a proper and faster way to start. We soon learned and rode at Monkchester Road in Walker.

Visits were made to Edinburgh, Glasgow, Halifax, Manchester and Coventry. Moving to Eastfield Avenue at the bottom of the Fossway led to a council built track that was as good as anywhere in the country. By this time I was 22 and thinking of other things, so were many of my teammates.

About 1970 a new generation came through with stalwarts like Norman Carson and Terry Kirkup. For many years they kept Newcastle alive riding in various National leagues. 1982 saw the end and as far as I know having by then moved south. Apart from the tracks I have mentioned, others were at Fawdon and South Shields. Middlesbrough was around for a while, and from there came Frank Auffret, who rode speedway for Middlesbrough, Hull and England.

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